A food lover's guide to Thailand

From jungle curries in the north to seafood in the south, Thailand’s cuisine is as mouthwatering as it is diverse. Find inspiration for your next trip by first exploring the food scene in the UK.

By Tourism Thailand
Published 11 Jun 2019, 12:29 BST
Angthong Marine National Park
Angthong Marine National Park.
Photograph by Thai media library

Beachside seafood
With the sea hugging both sides of south Thailand, white-sand beaches and fresh seafood abound in this part of the country. Cobalt waters and clear skies provide the perfect backdrop for freshly prepared local dishes such as khao yam nam budu, a tossed salad of rice, herbs, fish, vegetables and budu (fermented fish sauce). The speciality in Phuket is a mouth-watering, coconut-based crab curry with kaffir lime leaves and plenty of fresh red chilli.

Two to try
In the north of the UK, Thai Basil in Leeds is a cosy restaurant with a big reputation. Try their Talay Pal for a seafood extravaganza: chargrilled tiger prawns, squid, salmon, and mussels cooked in a spicy seafood sauce.

In the capital, Som Saa, just down the road from Spitalfields Market offers a modern take on Thai food in an achingly cool exposed-brick warehouse. The southern style minced prawn curry with aubergines and kajorn flowers is particularly good.

Damnoen Floating Market, Bangkok.

Bangkok street food
With its maze-like streets, traffic-dodging tuk-tuks and frantic markets, Bangkok is a city that will both amaze and confuse. Head to Bangkok Old City for a fascinating insight into daily life — plus world-famous street food — or to local institution Pad Thai Thip Samai for an exemplary example of the country’s most renowned dish: pad thai. Here, a thin layer of omelette is wrapped around fresh noodles and cooked over a charcoal fire. Eat it scalding hot before washing the dish down with a glass of fresh orange juice. Street sellers on Khao San Road, meanwhile, offer classics like fried rice and tom yum soup.

Test out two more
You can find Niang and his daughters at Bristol’s  St Nicholas Market every weekend. Not only are you guaranteed delicious, genuine Thai faire, but tucking into it at the side of the road — albeit in bustling Bristol rather than Bangkok — only adds to the authenticity of the experience.

For tapas-style servings of food inspired by Bangkok’s street food scene,  Smoking Goat in Shoreditch is a sure-fire option. Choose from appetizers such as barbecue Tamworth skewers and steamed oysters, or from more hearty dishes like whole five spice braised chicken with a helping of sticky rice.

Pad thai — a classic staple of Thai street food.

Jungle curries
The lush, dense jungles of northern Thailand are remote and peaceful, where often the only backdrop you’ll hear is the cacophony of jungle creatures or the gurgle of nearby streams. The cuisine in this region, however, is anything but mellow. Jungle curries like kaeng pa omit the coconut milk found in many Thai dishes — coconuts don’t naturally grow this far north — and use copious amounts of chilli resulting in bold, fiery flavours. Alternatively, for a lighter more subtle dish, the village of Mae Salong in Chiang Rai is famous for its fresh tea leaf salad, made with leaves collected at one of the local plantations.

Two to try
in Liverpool isn’t just a place to indulge in Thai food, it’s also somewhere for learning new skills. Cooking classes include an introduction to the cuisine and the opportunity to cook two dishes following a demonstration. The beef jungle curry on the menu is chef Poom’s own recipe and features bamboo, papaya, green beans and kra chai (fingerroot).

Kiln in London’s Soho sources its produce locally and specialises in northern Thai cuisine. Their version of kaeng pa features halibut and bitter aubergine, and if you enjoy watching chefs at work, this is the restaurant for you. Dishes are cooked over an open fire and counter-style seating means you’re never far from the action.

For more information, follow Tourism Thailand on Twitter.

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